IF ever a final summed up the charm of this sport, it was the Ladbrokes Masters. Two working-class blokes slugging it out at the very highest level. Jonny Clayton and Mervyn King walked off the Marshall Arena stage £60k and £25k better off. Yet the next day they were back to work as a plasterer and Amazon delivery driver.
No flukes, no luck, Clayton, and King outplayed the lot over the weekend, the Welshman rattling off three 104-plus averages and a record 91 percent checkout rate against James Wade in the quarters. That’s what darts is all about. That is its schtick, its DNA. This is a sport that has dined out for decades on its accessibility and attainability.
Yes, there’s been the relentless domination of Eric Bristow, Phil Taylor, and Michael van Gerwen. But it’s still just a human being versus a human being with three pointy objects standing 7 feet 9.25 inches from a dartboard. That’s why the Roy of the Rovers tales of Keith Deller, Kirk Shepherd, and Rob Cross can, and have, happened. That’s why over the past few months there’s been a succession of new major winners and a guy playing rugby seven years ago is now World No.1.
And ain’t the element of surprise just bloody wonderful.
The sport thrives on the bloke or girl next door image. No wonder Fallon Sherrock’s exploits were splashed all over the world from North London to New York and New South Wales. She was just a girl from Bucks suddenly enjoying hitting the bullseyes and Bucks Fizz and delivered more newspaper splashes than Posh and Becks.
That’s also why Fleet Street hacks and rags lapped up the Gary Anderson and Mensur Suljovic spat; the words gamesmanship, tablegate, and numpty suddenly filling powerful and punchy paragraphs in every paper. Peter Wright’s The Grinch costume may have been the only fancy dress at the Ally Pally this year but his unorthodox opening defence as World Champion had ‘em shocked and sneering on BBC News the following morning. That’s showbiz folks, get ‘em talking.
Darts has had everyone entertained during the pandemic. And good grief we’d all rather have a bit of a laugh at Wright and an Anderson rant than watching interviews with Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, and Lewis Hamilton looking like they’d rather be having root canal treatment by Harold Shipman. Indeed, darts must never forget its roots. From the pub and Indoor League, working-class arrers still kicks ass. We love it.
Words: Phil Lanning
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